The Economics of Population Control
Attempts to analyze the effects of population change on human welfare have been among the earliest preoccupations of economists. The possibility that less than optimal demographic patterns might emerge was also recognized early; so it is not surprising that speculations about the desirability of deliberately influencing population size, or population change, to facilitate the achievement of some economic objective can also be traced back to the earliest recorded economic thought. Similarly, economic objectives have almost always played a prominent role in shaping practical policies, such as there were, aimed at modifying various demographic processes. Thus the present-day attention to economically motivated population control schemes is by no means novel, either in economic theorizing or in the field of practical policy.
THE CONTEMPORARY PROBLEM
Nevertheless, the intensity of the current interest in such schemes, as well as the magnitude of the economic issues underlying that interest, are unquestionably without precedent in human affairs. The primary reason for this is to be found in the historically unparalleled rates of population growth that have been generated by the success in reducing mortality in the less developed countries during the past few decades. The portent of this demographic phenomenon is amplified by the fairly general expectation that a corresponding downward adjustment of fertility will occur spontaneously only after a considerable time lag; as a consequence, achieving a sustained development in the foreseeable future will be a much more difficult task than it was in the now
Paul Demeny is Director of the East-West Population Institute of the East-West Center and Professor of Economics, University of Hawaii.
*This paper was originally presented at the 1969 General Conference of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population in London, England, and appears in the Proceedings of that Conference; it appears here, with minor editorial changes, by permission of the IUSSP.nontraditional inputs. What is new is the rather persuasive evidence that the nontraditional inputs are usually more significant than the traditional ones, and hence the relations between population growth and nontraditional inputs should in most cases become central to the analysis of the "population-resources" problem.